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Activists use education to overcome new voting laws

by Deborah Barfield Berry, Gannett Washington Bureau (USA Today) – At Jackson State University and Tougaloo College in Mississippi, students are setting up voter registration tables at football games and at Friday “hot spots” where classmates gather for music and fun.

“Everybody comes out and we get students registered,” said Brian Wilks, president of the Student Government Association at Jackson State. “This election is critical. We really have to understand that our vote matters.”

Nineteen historically black colleges and universities have signed up for the HBCU Challenge, a national effort by historic black colleges and universities to register thousands of students across the country and educate them about new election laws in their states.

“We’re focusing on voter registration on college campuses to make sure that our students aren’t disenfranchised,” said Jessica Brown, national field coordinator for Black Youth Vote, a program run by the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation. “There’s a lot at stake, especially for our young people.”

Students at historically black colleges, black lawmakers and civil rights groups are battling new voter ID laws and other changes to state election laws by redoubling efforts to make sure voters know the rules in their states and have the right ID when they show up at the polls.

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